Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NCAA Tournament Play In Game Picks

 I'm all for these NCAA Tournament games on Tuesday and Wednesday.  What I'm not okay with is calling them the "First Round."  To me, they always will and always should be called "Play In" games.  The NCAA is the one bracket with 64 teams on it.  Not 64 lines with 8 other teams shoved in to open nooks and crannies of the bracket. 

While I'm here, I'll also mention that I do believe the Play In games should be all 12 seeds or the last 8 teams in the tournament.  Teams like Liberty, James Madison, LIU-Brooklyn and North Carolina A&T have earned their way in to the field of 64 by winning their conference tournaments.  Teams like Boise State, Middle Tennessee State, LaSalle and St. Mary's didn't do enough to be locks on Selection Sunday and should play on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wouldn't it make a better night of TV if instead of having a game with two 16 seeds battle it out each night, you added Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and Virginia to these play in games? 

All that being said, here are my picks for the tonight and tomorrow's Play In Games:

Liberty (+3) over North Carolina A&T

In picking a game like this you can't go by which team is hotter right now since they both came out of nowhere to win their conference tournaments.  But one thing I look for out of these smaller schools is what's the one thing that each of these teams does best.  In this case, Liberty is good at shooting the three and NC A&T is good at blocking shots.  Liberty is limited offensively in the front court and rely heavily on the three so I don't see NC A&T's interior defense really coming in to play that often.  Also, NC A&T is one of the worst three point shooting teams in the country.  I think this 20 loss fairy tale continues for one more game.

Middle Tennessee State (+3) over St. Mary's

I've gone back and forth on this one.  MTSU has only beaten one team of St. Mary's quality all year and it was at home.  St. Mary's will have the best player on the floor in Matt Dellavedova.  A part of me wants to take St. Mary's because I think he deserves not to have his career end in a play in game.  I also would like to pick St. Mary's so I would have two games to raise my arms above my head and yell "STEVE HOLT!" every time Stephen Holt scores.  But I think MTSU is a bad match up for St. Mary's.  They both are capable three point shooting teams except MTSU defends the three well and St. Mary's does not.  Also, St. Mary's lacks depth and MTSU can run 11 deep at you.  And honestly, a part of me is taking MTSU because in my friend and I's attempt to predict the bracket we had MTSU out in favor of Tennessee.  Usually I take the team I miss to lose in their first game and it never works out for me.

LIU-Brooklyn (-1.5) over James Madison

Jump all over this game now while the line before it moves.  James Madison suspended their best player for the first half of the game for getting arrested this week.  And that is on top of the fact that LIU is the better team anyway.  This is LIU's third consecutive tournament.  Their three best players have participated in the last two.  If the Colonial Tournament wasn't decimated by conference re-alignment and APR sanctions, there is a good chance JMU isn't even here right now. 

Boise State (-1.5) over LaSalle

I went back and forth with this game as well.  I actually changed over to Boise State for the last time while I was in the middle of typing this.  One interesting thing about Boise State is that their losses have usually come when they were massively outscored at the FT line.  Their last few loses were by 6, 4 and 10.  They were outscored at the free throw line by 8, 15 and 14 respectively.  The Mountain West was an outstanding conference this year and Boise played the upper echelon of that conference pretty evenly except for that one area.  LaSalle on the other hand is one of the worst teams in the country at getting to the free throw line.  Now that can be largely due to their reliance on the three point shot.  But as good as LaSalle is at the 3, Boise is actually better.  Wait...I just learned that LaSalle is one of the best teams in the country at defending the three.  I'm stopping before I change again.

I was actually looking for an image of brackets to put at the top of this post.  I did a Google Image search and ended up with more images of the inside of people's mouths than I was comfortable with.

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